Chromosomal Polymorphisms in African vlei rats, Otomys irroratus (Muridae: Otomyini), detected by banding techniques and chromosome painting: Inversions, centromeric shifts and diploid number variation
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Pericentric inversions are important for evolutionary biology because of their potential role in speciation. They may result in reproductive isolation due to illegitimate pairing of homologues at meiosis which leads to the production of aneuploid gametes (containing deletions or duplications of chromosomal segments), and consequently mediate chromosomal divergence. In this study, we describe the prevalence of pericentric inversions in the African vlei rat, Otomys irroratus (OIR). The species is characterized by intraspecific chromosomal variation (2n = 23–32) across its distribution in southern Africa. Here, we analyzed 55 individuals collected from 7 localities in South Africa by G- and C-banding and chromosome painting with flow sorts of Myotomys unisulcatus . Of the 55 specimens that were analyzed, 47% contained inversions or centromeric shifts on 4 autosomes (OIR1, 4, 6 and 10) which were present singly in specimens (i.e. none of the specimens contained all 4 inversions concurrently). These inversions were found in both homozygous and heterozygous state over a wide geographic range suggesting that they are floating polymorphisms. Given the potential role of inversions in post-mating isolation (through production of aneuploid gametes), the prevalence of inversions as floating polymorphisms in the vlei rats suggests that they are probably retained in the population through suppression of recombination in the inverted regions of the chromosomes.